The Adventures of George

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George is a ten-year-old violinist from Wiltshire (UK) who begin to study the double bass with me in late 2019. His violin teacher, Louise Padday, phoned to say she had a very talented young student but, even though he was making excellent progress on the violin, she thought he was really a double bassist. Shortly afterwards I received an email from George's mum, Elle, asking to arrange a consultation lesson but she and George both made it very clear that he was a violinist first and foremost. I suggested we organise an initial lesson and, if it went well, to book a lesson from week to week and, if he didn't think the double bass was for him, we could end lessons when they wished.

That was about nine months ago and George really is a bassist and has a natural flair for the instrument. He is quite fearless, nothing is too much of a challenge for him, and from his second week he was able to play simple scales in tune on his quarter-sized double bass. One week I rashly offered to write him a short piece for unaccompanied double bass and, without any idea of where this project would take us, the first piece was written.

George's Great Adventure [No.1] only uses 1st position on the G and D strings, with the addition of bass percussion to add variety and a rhythmic challenge, and the reaction I received from George and his mum was fantastic. From humble beginnings the series began and the rest, as they say, is history.

Towards the end of March 2020 the UK went into lockdown and double bass lessons were then online for the next five months. Each week I would ask George about his interests and what he liked so that the next piece could be linked specifically in some way to him. George is a very quick learner and 4th position was introduced in the second piece, alongside rhythmic foot stamps and chromaticism, but still primarily in 1st position.

George Makes a Splash! [No.4] reflected his love of swimming with the addition of slurs and false harmonics in 4th position. Sul ponticello was introduced at the end of the piece and even an effect played below the bridge was no problem for George.

I enjoyed the challenge of writing a new piece each week and, once I had decided on the title, it was easy to start composing. Young players are wonderfully open to new ideas and I was able to add effects such as col legno, left-hand pizzicato, harmonics, chords and glissando to demonstrate the many sounds that are possible on the double bass.

George took every new challenge or effect in his stride and if he couldn't play something he would work until he got it right. George goes Green [No.10] was an exercise in recycling and I asked him to select two favourite bars from the previous nine pieces, which I would then put together as a collage with a few linking bars. Elle, George's mum, said he was certainly challenged that week, which I had worried about as I was writing it but, amazingly, he played it brilliantly at his next lesson. I did feel quite bad that I had made him work so hard and tried to make amends with George is Dreaming [No.11] which is much simpler.

George premiered all twelve pieces on Friday 24 July 2020 in an open-air concert in his garden, surrounded by family and friends, which is no mean feat for a ten-year-old, along-side playing two new duets and a trio. George played brilliantly in the concert but, as soon as the music ended, he was running around with his friends just like any youngster.

I am very grateful to George for giving me the opportunity to write for him over the past three months and for challenging me to write pieces with musical and technical challenges in equal measure. My aim was to produce music which combined playing effects, alongside introducing new positions, keys and rhythms, but were also engaging and interesting. [David Heyes -Somerset / August 2020]

1) George's Great Adventure remains in 1st position throughout, employing a limited number of notes and rhythms, with simple slurs on the G string. The introduction of percussion adds an extra challenge and helps to create a strong and confident final bar. The piece is in G major, has a happy and positive feel throughout and with few challenges.

2) George Goes Hiking uses 1st and 4th positions with a recurring chromatic motif alongside rhythmic foot stamps. Crotchets and quavers are used, also simple string crossings and dynamic contrasts, to create a lively piece full of energy and drive.

3) George the Gymnast is the shortest of the set and is primarily in 1st position, in G major, with the addition of a few notes in 4th position. The rhythm used in the first bar acts as a unifying feature throughout and there are very few technical challenges.

4) George Make a Splash! is marked 'smooth and swimmingly' and introduces slurred bowing in 1st and 4th positions. The addition of false harmonics adds a new challenge and the 'splash' is created with a spread chord played below the bridge.

5) George at the Gallop introduces col legno and left-hand pizzicato alongside major and minor tonalities and chromatic patterns in 4th position. The changes from col legno to left-hand pizzicato and then to arco create new technical opportunities, with the ringing artificial harmonic evoking George and his horse successfully jumping a fence in the showground.

6) George Plays his Scales is a fun exercise in scale passages but hidden within a musical framework. Major and minor scales are introduced, alongside pizzicato, developing effective shifts between 1st and 3rd positions.

7) George Wins his Race is centred around the key of A minor and is in 6/8 time. 2nd position is introduced, alongside 1st and 4th positions, and two rhythmic patterns are used throughout with an accelerando at the end as George wins his race.

8) George flies to Outer Space is one of George's favourite pieces and begins with the rocket engines being fired up. The rocket is launched, climbs higher and higher and eventually George floats through outer space. The piece features double stops, chromatic passage work, long harmonic notes and harmonic glissandos on the G string with the sound gradually dying away as the rocket continues on its journey.

9) George visits Stonehenge is also one of George's favourite pieces and offers magical and mysterious music for the young bassist. The music is slow and sonorous with the addition of pizzicato chords using the open strings, dramatic double stops played arco, and the opportunity to explore a range of playing styles and effects.

10) George goes Green is an exercise in recycling. George chose two bars from each of the previous pieces which I put together, with a few links, to create a new piece. It is the most challenging of the series but George succeeded magnificently.

11) George is Dreaming is slow and relaxed, adding new playing challenges in Half and 4th positions. Natural and false harmonics are used to create an atmospheric and evocative sound world alongside left-hand pizzicatos which add a new dimension.

12) George's Grand Finale is a fast and fun piece and is in the happy key of D major. A strong rhythmic energy and momentum brings together techniques used throughout the series, ending with a confident and triumphal Bartok pizzicato note. [David Heyes - Somerset, October 2020]

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Cat No. RM1089
Supplier Code RM1089
Price £10.50
ComposerDavid Heyes
CategoryDouble Bass Solo
Difficulty levelBeginner, 1 - 3
Weight 163 grams
Published 16th November 2020
Availability 8 in stock
See also...
RM1088  Creature Comforts (exotic and endangered species) (DOUBLE BASS & PIANO)